Ronaldo helps Madrid win before Bale joins
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid roll to a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao Sunday hours before the Spanish club announced it had signed Gareth Bale to pair him with the Portugal forward in one of the most formidable attacks in football.
Madrid said Bale was leaving Tottenham to join the Spanish club for six seasons, ending the longest transfer saga of the offseason one day before the market closed.
After not scoring in Madrid's first two wins to start the Spanish league season, Ronaldo headed in Madrid's second goal in first-half injury time to add to Francisco "Isco'' Alarcon's 26th-minute opener from Karim Benzema's pass.
Benzema assisted Isco again in the 73rd for his third goal in as many games since joining from Malaga this offseason.
"Things are going well considering we have just started the season, three for three so far,'' said the 21-year-old Isco. "We are getting better game by game. That's our goal.''
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti started Diego Lopez instead of Iker Casillas for the third straight match, but the goalkeeper could do nothing to stop substitute Ibai Gomez from getting Bilbao's consolation goal in the 79th.
Ancelotti said that defender Fabio Coentrao was staying at the club after changing his mind over a transfer.
Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera did not play a day after his club said it had rejected an offer for him from Manchester United. Coach Ernesto Valverde said that his benching had nothing to do with the interest from United and that he expected Herrera to stay.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid also stayed perfect through three rounds by winning 2-1 at Real Sociedad thanks to David Villa's goal and assist for Jorge "Koke'' Resurreccion to add a second.
Espanyol, meanwhile, remained unbeaten after drawing 0-0 at home with the winless Real Betis.
Later, Barcelona visits Valencia and Sevilla hosts Malaga.
Before the match started, Madrid dismantled a stage it had set up inside the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium last weekend supposedly for Bale's presentation. It will go back up early on Monday for the Wales winger's arrival to the Spanish capital.
Isco poked his first goal under goalkeeper Iago Herrerin after Benzema set him up with a scooped pass made easier by Bilbao's Andoni Iraola who failed to move forward with the rest of the defensive line, leaving Isco onside to take the ball alone in the area.
"Isco is playing very well, it looks like he has been playing here a long time,'' Ancelotti said.
Benat Etxebarria almost leveled for Bilbao with a free kick on the half-hour mark, but a misplaced pass Madrid threaten on the counterattack with Isco and Benzema leading the way.
Ronaldo extended the hosts' lead by running free to head Angel Di Maria's dipping free kick into the corner of the net.
Ronaldo was denied another goal by Herrerin in the 68th when he made a one-handed parry to push Ronaldo's driving free kick around his post.
Isco fired in Madrid's third after controlling Benzema's short cross with one touch and scored to ensure Bilbao would suffer its first loss of the season following two victories.
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